What is sex addiction?
As a clinical psychologist, I am often asked if pornography addiction is real, and if it can be treated – and the answer to both questions thankfully is “yes”. Addictions can occur in a wide range of circumstances, and pornography is now more readily available than ever. As porn triggers an emotional response on such a fundamental, visceral level, Pornography Addiction is a real, and growing, phenomenon. Thankfully, with understanding and commitment, it can be successfully treated.
All addictions ultimately spring from difficulties in emotional regulation. Often, when we experience difficult emotions, we turn to behaviours that distract us from dealing with feelings that we would prefer not to acknowledge. For some people, pornography seems to drag them out of their current emotional state to experience a different set of feelings, while, for others, addiction can take the form of alcohol, drugs, or overeating. This different set of feelings suppresses their actual emotional problems, giving them a temporary fix that provides a short-term distraction and sense of relief. Typically, porn addicts are people who never learned how to manage difficult emotions in their early lives. Without the skills they need to deal with them, they have grown up to be adults who are vulnerable to developing unhealthy coping mechanisms. Over time, they can develop the habit of turning to porn every time they experience negative feelings of any sort. Gradually, they can find themselves engaging with pornography when they experience even minor negative feelings that are part of their everyday lives, such as boredom or stress. Porn, even if they are not using it every day, can become their go-to coping mechanism for when life seems hard.
Cognitive Behavioural Treatment
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